The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

James Emtage Headshot

What the F*** Shall I Do With Mother?

Posted: Updated:

Not my words, but ones I regularly hear my friend mutter every time his slightly overbearing mother hits London for a long weekend of R and R.

Mine doesn't do it too often, and when she does she usually comes armed with a plan of a show, a service or a sight that she's been recommended by so and so in the village to go and see. Simple really.

The other day however, I unexpectedly found myself with a day to fill with mum, and had not a plan in sight.

Plunged into a mild panic, wanting to do more for the old gal than a mediocre meal and a potter round the park, I started to hunt out a quirky something to do on a Friday lunchtime that didn't involve the words Jubilee, Olympics or BYOB, which are branded around the capital a little too much for my liking at the mo.

Up popped La Porte des Indes, a ridiculously delicious looking French influenced Indian tucked just behind Marble Ach, offering not only lunch but also a 90-minute Indian cooking demo from their Head Chef. Organised fun AND a lovely meal? This could have easily gone one of two ways.

Despite my slight apprehension, it turned out to be pretty perfect. The whole 'taking mum on a group activity' initially worried me, with the threat of polite chitchat and cringe worthy team bonding type scenarios hanging over me like an open top tour bus in a heat wave. But I need not have worried. The place was brilliantly unique for something random, interesting, and not at all touristy.

We arrived into what felt like a Rajasthan oasis of tropical plants, with a cascading marble waterfall and colonial style Indian furniture poking out of every nook and cranny. "Just like being back in the Raj" one fellow diner quipped, Telegraph in one hand, g 'n t rattling in the other.

The ten of us there were whisked around the kitchens and given a lesson on the running of the service, which if you haven't ever been in to a 300 cover London eatery was a good insight in to how the swans legs keep frantically paddling underneath while her top half effortlessly glides between courses without so much as a feather out of place.

The demo then followed where we were first taught how to make a Chicken Samosa from scratch ("MUCH better than the Waitrose readymade" remarked the same lady, now on her second gin), followed by a Mangetout and Water Chesnut Masala and a Seafood Cassoulet, both perfectly spiced and heated so they were just the right side of hot.

For the cooks who care there's a lot to learn about food, and for the cooks who don't there's a lot to learn about accompanying wine. The course included a mildly eccentric wine connoisseur who handpicked two whites to go with the different dishes. I loved this part, for wine lists can be daunting at the best of times, none more so than when you're up town with mother trying to treat her to something special. So having an expert advise us on what grape packs the most punch with a pilau was the perfect finishing touch. Eccentricity even more so.

After the demo came lunch, a full on banquet of a tasting menu where the only choices we had to make were whether to go veggie or not. Which was handy considering we were now well into our bottle of Riesling, as sampled earlier during the demo. This style of lunch was perfect, with its numerous bite size portions of different dishes, eliminating our indecision so we could sit back and munch away at our leisure.

Six starters, six mains and six puddings later, Mum and I were done. Giggly from the wine, in awe of the chef and positively glowing from the spice, we had well and truly set ourselves up for that potter round the park. Plus we were given a cookbook and a sample of spices on our way out, should we feel the need to try and replicate these impeccable French-Indian fusions at home.

La Porte des Indes was a complete surprise. Don't be disillusioned by the average looking Indian on the corner that it hides away underneath. Once you venture inside, London is long gone, and if you have three hours to kill and a mother to entertain, treat her to a cooking demonstration and a slap up lunch, all for a very good value of £45 each. Mothers are totally worth it at the end of the day.

FATHERS do apply as well mind, and with father's day on Sunday 17th June you could book your old pops on to the next course on Friday 29th June- he'd love it for sure.

www.laportedesindes.com